BENEFIT MANAGEMENT CAN START DURING THE PROJECT’S LIFECYCLE TO BRING BIG REWARDS TO THE USER.
Benefit management is key to the user’s interest in the project. ALL benefits will be realised only in post-project when the use of the project’s product leads to changes in the business. These changes create new outcomes. And the outcomes allow a business to realise benefits set out in the business justification for the project.
But often enough, the project can be set up in such a way that the user can aim to realise at least some benefits even before the project’s end.
The concept of the key user product helps to achieve that. In essence, it is a specialist product or configuration item. Which means, a component of the project’s product. But one, that has a separate utility for the user.
Here is an example of benefit management enhanced by the key user product.
A couple of years back, electronics companies started work on the 5G-compatible handy. Its key innovation was a new processor capable of handling the high data rates involved in 5G mobile networks. Accordingly, many projects treated the handy as the project’s product. And the processor, as a regular configuration item.
But I know of at least one example when the project plan specifically aimed to produce the processor about a year ahead of the planned project closure. The idea behind that planning was simple. To start selling the processor for Machine to Machine (M2M) communications before 5G networks became available to humans. Come to think of it, it’s the machines that can arguably benefit most from the introduction of 5G capabilities, anyway.
Take production communication networks.
Here, the new generation of processors can coordinate the operation of numerous machines involved in the production process. Such processors can also install software updates or re-programme the machines in the thousands to conduct different work sequences. Putting it in a nutshell, 5G can dramatically shrink the downtime needed to reconfigure the factory to produce new outputs.
Obviously, M2M communication does not require the handy. The processor will suffice. So, sales of the processor for M2M communication started generating return on user’s investment in the handy project from around half-time in its delivery. And thus, helped to significantly reduce capital outlay. From that point onwards, the handy project became increasingly self-financing.
At the same time, putting the processor on the market reduced the user’s risk exposure.
Imagine that for some reason the handy project lost its continued business justification and the executive opted for premature closure. In such situation, the processor could provide the user with a return on investment as well as serve as a marketable takeaway and a transferable asset. It could be monetised on its own to produce revenue that would gradually recover project costs and then start generating profit. Or serve as an in-kind investment in a future new venture.
Needless to say, such an approach to benefit management can increase the user’s interest in the project. And the PRINCE2 method aims to look after the three principal project interests – business, user and supplier.
In the context of a PRINCE2 project, the processor mentioned above will thus become known as the key user product.
And accordingly, its production will follow a slightly different pipeline as compared to regular configuration items. PRINCE2 is all about nuances.
- In case of regular configuration items, the project manager approves project descriptions with respective quality measures. These include quality criteria, quality tolerance, quality method, quality skills required and quality responsibilities. The project manager also chairs the quality review to confirm that the product is fit for purpose i.e. meets the quality criteria and quality tolerance and subsequently approves it.
- In contrast to these regular configuration items, the key user product has a special characteristic. It aims to realise immediate benefits for the user before the project’s product is ready. Since benefit realisation in PRINCE2 is a function of the user, it is the senior user who then provides the key user product description. And it is the senior user who chairs the quality review for the key user product and approves it.
- Furthermore, the change control approach prepared as part of the project initiation documentation at the project’s start, in the initiation a project process, defines the specific hand-over procedure for the key user product.
- And last but not least, the overall benefits management approach prepared in the initiation stage specifically describes the procedure for benefits realisation accruing from the key user product.
Interestingly enough, PRINCE2 vests the responsibility for benefits realisation during the project’s lifecycle in the executive.
Sure, it can look a bit strange. After all, it is the user who provides the product description for the key user product, approves the ready product and reaps the accruing benefits. Still, while the user becomes accountable for benefits realisation in post-project, the executive cannot delegate the responsibility for anything that happens during project delivery.